Russia’s Largest Retailer Sidesteps French Cheese Ban in Ruling

A customer checks the prices of slices of cheese inside an OAO Magnit hypermarket in Krasnodar, Russia, on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.

A customer checks the prices of slices of cheese inside an OAO Magnit hypermarket in Krasnodar, Russia, on Thursday, Aug. 7, 2014.

Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

PJSC Magnit, Russia’s largest retailer, successfully defended its right to sell French cheese in court despite the government ban on imports of certain food products from the European Union.

Magnit stores in Leningrad region were selling French-made cheese for Greek salad, and the country’s consumer-safety watchdog ordered the retailer to stop and pay a 30,000 rubles ($522) fine. A court has overturned the decision.

“The government banned imports of certain products, but not their sales,” the Arbitrage Court of the St. Petersburg and Leningrad Region said in a July 2 ruling published on its website. Magnit’s spokeswoman declined to comment, and press officials at consumer-safety watchdog Rospotrebnadzor weren’t immediately available.

Russia last month extended its ban of Western food imports for another year, closing a loophole that allowed imports of certain European cheeses. Russia won’t ban wine and confectionery imports, Agriculture Minister Alexander Tkachev told reporters on a trip to the Khakassia region in the east of Russia, because the Russian market is not ready for such measures.

Some French cheeses were exempt from the ban, such as lactose-free varieties. Azbuka Vkusa, a Moscow-based premium retailer, said it’s still selling them.

“When cheese has proper customs documents, we can sell it, complying with the law,” Azbuka’s spokesman Andrey Golubkov said by phone.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE